Mitigating the Effects of Climate Change Requires Edge Intelligence

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, committed $10 billion to back scientists, activists and organizations working to mitigate the impact of climate change. In his Instagram post announcing his funding, meant to “preserve and protect the natural world”, Bezos builds upon the words of Brandon Purcell, principal analyst at Forrester Research. Purcell told TechRepublic about the merging of Artificial Intelligence with environmental stewardship, “At the end of the day, good environmental stewardship is good business, and good data builds good AI.”

But what about consistently getting the data? The Earth is a big place. One might think gathering bits and bytes from large numbers of far off places and spaces for years at a time, such as in the middle of an ocean or far north of the Arctic Circle, is an impossible task. Too remote, Too expensive. Too big of a logistical nightmare. Fortunately, with a bit of forethought and some state-of-the-art technology, no challenge is too daunting.

For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has built an elegant solution for advanced marine monitoring, tracking, and data analytics programs to accurately map changing oceanic conditions, precisely monitor temperature fluctuations and generate complex marine analytics and weather forecasting models.

This complex process is economically built with:

  • Long-life solar batteries and electronics gateways built for unforgiving marine environments and minimal hand-to-device upkeep
  • Sensor agnostic interfaces developed to work with a myriad of sensors and marine assets — including fishing vessels, drift trackers, and buoys — in a distributed network configuration of smart sensors and geofences
  • GPS capable dual mode data communications, capable of transmitting a wide range of marine metrics via high speed cellular or the recently upgraded Iridium® satellite constellation

Integrated seamlessly together, these components provide NOAA with an IoT multi-node distributed edge solution that is in many places at once, gathering raw intelligence day in and day out across remote marine environments and providing insights to mitigate negative impacts on complex marine ecosystems, including the effects of warmer than average temperatures this winter and dramatically declining fish populations.

Of course, the data needed to understand and mitigate climate change goes way beyond near-shore marine environments. According to the World Wildlife Federation, plastic “smothers a host of marine animals and habitats and can take hundreds of years to break down. As it does, sunlight and heat cause the plastic to release powerful greenhouse gases, leading to an alarming feedback loop. As our climate changes, the planet gets hotter, the plastic breaks down into more methane and ethylene, increasing the rate of climate change, and so perpetuating the cycle.”

The Ocean Cleanup, the precedent-setting non-profit engineering environmental organization based in the Netherlands, develops technology to extract the plastic from earth’s oceans. The organization is best known for its 600-meter-long “floater system” deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to collect plastic moving with the natural forces of the wind and currents.

A solar-powered two-way satellite tracker is affixed to the system as a critical fallback for geolocation data, to retrieve the collected plastic and track down the floater system when maintenance and repair is needed. No cabling, external power, or external antennae are required, making it ideal for a critical tracking backup should any of the system’s primary satellite communications and data collecting systems fail. And, it can survive for years without service. The Iridium satellite network provides connectivity even deep in the Pacific Ocean, far from any land, so that the floater system can be located for offloading collected plastic and retrieval.

It’s an ongoing mission at AssetLink to work with organizations that can leverage our technology in support of social initiatives. We work with Universities studying ocean science, track wild animals, and monitor critical wetlands, and now we have the honor of being associated with these efforts to improve our environment for future generations.

The AssetLink solution can be used for two-way geolocation and complex sensor monitoring anywhere on the planet, both to expand humankind’s knowledge of our world and to help the core of our economy – energy, transportation, construction, and agriculture – do more with less.

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